Miami Heat center Chris Andersen received a flagrant-1 foul after shoving Indiana Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough early in the second quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday.
After a missed layup by Heat guard Norris Cole three minutes into the second quarter, Pacers forward Paul George grabbed the rebound and started up court. Behind the play, "The Birdman" ran straight over to Hansbrough and shoulder-checked him to the floor; we don't know exactly what precipitated the play, but the two reserve big men have battled throughout the first four games of the series.
Hansbrough bounced up and said something to Andersen, who raced right over and got in Hansbrough's face. The two bumped chests, and then Andersen gave Hansbrough a two-handed shove that knocked him back into the arms of teammate Roy Hibbert. At that point, the referees caught wind of it, with official Marc Davis stepping in to restrain Birdman while Pacers coach Frank Vogel raced over to check Hansbrough.
Andersen was assessed a flagrant-1 on the play, levied for "unnecessary" contact; upon video review, that call was upheld. Both Andersen and Hansbrough received technical fouls on the play, too; it's unclear why, exactly, Hansbrough got rung up, since his most egregious violation seemed to be "getting knocked down and getting pushed." (Maybe he just has one of those faces.)
Hansbrough split the two free throws that accompanied Bird's flagrant, and on the ensuing Pacers possession, he got a post touch that he tried to make count with a short hook ... only to run afoul of his tatted-up nemesis one more time:
That Andersen was even in the game to contest Hansbrough's shot, let alone block it and fire up the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd, was something of a surprise to many observers ... including, apparently, Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, who's got a little bit of experience in such matters and responded to the officials' decision thusly:
— demarcus cousins(@boogiecousins) May 31, 2013
Boogie wasn't the only shaking his head, thanks in large part to the fact that many of us remember very clearly a similar shove by a reserve center in Round 2 — only that center was the Chicago Bulls' Nazr Mohammed, the target was the Heat's LeBron James, and the result was Mohammed's ejection.
The main difference in the two cases, it seems? Hansbrough kept his feet (thanks in part to Hibbert), while James famously hit the deck, touching off a debate about whether or not the MVP was a flopper. (He was branded one by the NBA itself on Thursday morning.)
LeBron goes down, Mohammed goes out. Hansbrough stays up, Birdman stays in, immediately blocks a shot and gets to press on. And we wonder why they flop.
No matter what transpires during the balance of Game 5, it's a mortal lock that the NBA will review the incident on Friday, and it wouldn't be surprising in the least if Andersen received further discipline — including, perhaps, a suspension for Saturday's Game 6 back in Indiana. Considering how effective he's been this postseason — he hasn't missed a shot since Game 4 against the Bulls, is shooting 85.7 percent from the field in the playoffs and has given Miami good minutes off the bench — that could be a big, big problem resulting from what appears to be a dumb, dumb play.